If you’re someone who cares about your security on the internet, one of the products you’ve likely heard of is ProtonMail. ProtonMail was the creation of Harvard-educated PhDs, who ended up producing the largest encrypted mail service in the world.
After establishing the mail service, the creators got back together for a new product, ProtonVPN. ProtonVPN is a service based in Switzerland that stresses security.
If you’re looking to use a VPN, ProtonVPN is one of the products you’re likely to come across. Fortunately, we’re here to provide you with an extensive ProtonVPN review. We hope that after reading our ProtonVPN review, you’ll find it much easier to determine whether the product is for you.
What Is ProtonVPN?
ProtonVPN is a VPN service that stresses security. According to the company website, your internet connection is always encrypted when using the service. The company routes your connection through various encrypted tunnels. Not only does this keep you safe while on the internet, but it could also allow you to access sites unavailable in your country.
ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, which the company says helps allow it to provide top-notch security. The company has more than 400 servers located throughout 33 countries. When using ProtonVPN servers, your gigabyte capacity is 468.
The company stresses its Secure Core architecture, which they claim provides them the “unique ability to defend against network-based attacks.” Before leaving the ProtonVPN network, your connection will pass through multiple servers, making it impossible for someone to pinpoint an IP address based on data that the exit server provides. Secure Core Servers exist in:
ProtonVPN also stresses encryption with its services. The company encrypts all of its network traffic with AES-256 encryption, which is the highest level of encryption available today. This is the encryption standard that United States government agencies like the FBI and CIA use. Even the best hacking programs cannot crack AES-256 encryption.
The company also performs keyword exchanges with 4096-bit RSA. Furthermore, ProtonVPN relies on HMAC with SHA384 for message authentication.
Another encryption feature that stood out is the fact that Proton only uses encryption cipher suites with Perfect Forward Secrecy.
This feature prevents your data from being captured and deciphered after the fact if the key were to be found at a later point. There is a new encryption key with each browsing session, meaning your data is always safe.
When conducting our ProtonVPN review, we found that there were a few things that stood out to us. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the things that we liked most about ProtonVPN.
As we mentioned above, ProtonVPN stresses security. Not only does the company emphasize encryption, but it also only uses secure VPN protocols, such as IKEv2/IPSec
and OpenVPN. Even the mere threat of security could be enough to deter hackers.
Once hackers run into these types of security measures, they would likely cut their losses and move on.
Furthermore, not only does ProtonVPN stress software security, but it also prides itself on its physical security as well. The company placed its Secure Core servers in an old Swiss army fallout shelter. This shelter is 1,000 meters below the surface.
The company’s Iceland servers are also on a former military base. You can trust that your data is secure when using ProtonVPN.
If you use Tor browser, you use a “Tor over VPN” combination with ProtonVPN’s one-click Tor integration.
Strict Policy Against Logging
One of the most significant problems with free VPN services is that they tend to log data and sell it to third parties for promotional purposes. The fact that you can browse the Web while someone is monitoring your data seemingly defeats the purpose of using a VPN in the first place.
ProtonVPN stands out because the company has a strict policy against logging, even if you’re using the free service. ProtonVPN says that it “respects its users” privacy and enforces a No Logs policy. This means your VPN connection remains private, and “we do not store information about your connections or the websites you visit.”
The company says that the only thing that it stores is a single timestamp of the most recent login on your account. The company does this so that it can ensure the correct individual is logging into the account.
One of the other things that tend to frustrate us about VPNs is the lack of customer support. What are you supposed to do if you’ve paid for a service and it no longer works? Too often, people pay for a VPN service without customer support and end up getting burned in the long run as a result.
Fortunately, ProtonVPN provides decent customer support to its customers in many different languages. The company vows to answer your inquiry within 24 hours. Furthermore, a member of the customer service team takes the time to provide you a detailed response.
You won’t receive a link to a Resource Center or knowledge-based guide. At ProtonVPN, someone takes the time to give you the answer you’re seeking.
Possible Netflix Connection
One of the primary benefits of VPNs was that they allowed you to bypass geo-blockers. You could spoof your IP address, making it appear as though you were in a different country than the one you were in physically. You could then access this country’s sites as a result. Because Netflix offers various shows globally, many people used VPNs to broaden their show selection.
However, Netflix caught wind of this and instituted a VPN blocker. Many VPNs that once worked with Netflix are no longer valid. Yet, at least one of ProtonVPN’s servers was not caught by the Netflix VPN blocker, meaning you can stream video when on this server.
Unfortunately, the company does not indicate clearly which server works with Netflix. You may have to log in to your account and try connecting to various servers before determining which one will allow you to stream video.
So, ProtonVPN offers limited Netflix availability. But, considering that many VPNs don’t allow you to connect to Netflix at all, we’ll give ProtonVPN a “hat tip” for this one.
Being a privacy focused Swiss based VPN, protonvpn allows torrenting. So if your looking for a VPN for that primary reason it could be a good choice.
However we also recommend you check out best VPN’s for torrenting list for possible choices as well. Even though you can get decent speeds with protonvpn it doesn’t make it into our top 5 torrenting friendly VPN’s.
TOR over VPN
If you want to take your privacy to the next level then a good way to do that is by using TOR over a VPN. We have explained that process in some detail in our article TOR vs VPN.
Many VPN services don’t allow this or it can be tricky to set up, but ProtonVPN comes with TOR built-in which is a very big privacy bonus.
One of the other things that stood out to us when we were reviewing this service was that there were no leaks. A problem that tends to plague VPNs is DNS and Web-RTC leaks. When these occur, people can see your exact IP address. These most often occur when there are conflicts between connections. Leaks can be quite problematic, and they completely ruin the purpose of using a VPN in the first place.
We performed numerous tests on the ProtonVPN. Each time that we did so, there were no leaks in the ProtonVPN servers. We also scanned the files that we downloaded while connected to ProtonVPN.
We found that not a single file had any sign of malicious software. This too is a sign that there are not any data leaks when using the service.
They also have a really nice feature called “Smart Protocol” which works automatically in the background to make sure you stay connected to the VPN, even if something is trying to block your access. For example if your in a place where you don’t control the internet connection and the network admin trys to block access to VPN services through certain ports, then “Smart Protocol” takes effect. It will automatically work to connect through different ports using different VPN protocols. Pretty cool.
ProtonVPN may seem too good to be true, especially because the company offers a free plan. However, you should make sure that you think about the whole picture before making your final decision. There were some things that we didn’t like about ProtonVPN. We’ve provided a list of these “Cons” below.
Based in Switzerland
Switzerland is known for being a country that encourages personal privacy on the internet. The country claims to be neutral and does not participate in international conflict. However, the country’s lack of internet regulations has drawn negative attention in recent years.
Consider, for example, the Five Eyes Alliance. The Five Eyes Alliance is a collation made up of five countries:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
The countries work together to share intelligence. One of the initiatives of the Five Eyes Alliance is to focus cooperation on countries in which computer exploitation runs rampant. One of the 25 or so countries on the list is Switzerland.
So, even though ProtonVPN is located in Switzerland, your data is not entirely safe. Fortunately, thanks to the “No Logs” policy, ProtonVPN will never store your information, which means you’ll likely be safe were anything to happen. We ultimately feel as though the “Switzerland” aspect is more show than substance. It sounds excellent in theory, but we’re not sure how much benefit it has.
Lack of Servers
ProtonVPN’s website says that it has more than 400 servers. The company has worked quickly to add more servers to its network. We expect to see continued growth in the future. However, until ProtonVPN adds more servers, this will continue to rank as a “Con” for us. That’s because the best VPN services tend to offer access to nearly 5,000 servers. For example Nordvpn and Expressvpn, the two powerhouses of VPN services.
Server Speeds are Average
Whenever you use a VPN, you can expect there to be at least some drop off in performance as your data passes through various channels. During testing, we found that the speed of ProtonVPN was average, at best. We tested ProtonVPN to be sure, using baselines of 97 Mbps download speeds and upload speeds of 53 Mbps. Download rates tended to vary depending on which server we connected.
For instance, when connecting to servers in the United States, the download speeds were shy of 25 Mbps, rating 75 percent slower than our baseline. However, when connecting to servers in Switzerland, the download rates were around 55 Mbps. This was still slower than our baseline, but it was quicker than usual. Upload speeds were a bit more consistent during testing.
For example, the upload speeds when connected to servers in the United States were about 36 Mbps, which is roughly 31 percent slower than our baseline. Upload times on Swiss servers were around 38 Mbps, which is approximately 30 percent slower than our baseline.
Our worst results came when we were connected to servers in Asia. Here, download speeds were roughly 85 percent slower than our baseline and upload speeds were nearly 90 percent slower than our baseline. The fact that these servers are so slow could render them useless, therefore limiting the pool of servers from which you can choose.
Limited Device Support
ProtonVPN does not have the best range of device capability. The service works with devices that run:
This VPN service will not work with gaming consoles or smart TVs. Over the past couple of years, ProtonVPN has improved its device capability.
For instance, it was only within the past few months that the company introduced compatibility with native iOS apps. The company also recently began supporting router installation, working with conventional devices such as:
Perhaps in the coming years, ProtonVPN will continue to provide more device support. But right now, users don’t receive nearly as much device access as they should when paying for a product.
Although ProtonVPN has a free option, there are also various paid models from which you can choose. The paid models provide users with access to better features.
Customers can purchase ProtonVPN either monthly or annually. If they buy an annual subscription, they’ll end up saving 20 percent. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the various options available for purchasing ProtonVPN. All prices listed are “Monthly” rates. If you buy a year-long subscription, the prices we’ve listed will drop by 20 percent per month.
ProtonVPN offers free subscription services to anyone who wishes to download the product. ProtonVPN is noticeably different from other free subscription services because it does not log data. Many free VPNs log user data and sell it to third-parties to fund their operation. ProtonVPN does not do this.
This is a massive benefit for anyone looking for free VPN services. However, those who use the free service will notice that their experience pales in comparison to those who pay. For example, the free VPN only works on one device and customers will receive “Medium” upload and download speeds. However, customers using the product for free still gain access to seven servers in three countries.
The company’s Basic VPN plan is quite affordable, costing $4 per month. Customers will receive access to servers in every country, as opposed to the three countries provided by the Free plan. Under the Basic plan, customers can use the VPN on two devices.
They’ll also receive high connection speeds and peer-to-peer networking.
If you’re willing to invest in a VPN from ProtonVPN, you’ll likely receive the most benefit by purchasing the Plus Plan. Like all other paid ProtonVPN plans, you’ll gain access to servers in all countries, high connection speeds, and peer-to-peer networking. However, you’ll receive access on up to five devices.
You’ll also find that you can do much more with your VPN when you purchase the Plus Plan. For instance, the Secure Core technology delivered by ProtonVPN is only accessible when you buy a plan starting at this rate. Furthermore, you’ll also find that you receive secure streaming. This plan costs $8 per month.
If you’re a business owner in need of a VPN, you may want to check out the Visionary option. You can use up to ten devices under this plan. You’ll also gain access to ProtonMail, a secure email exchange. This service costs $30 per month.
We consider ProtonVPN a “middle of the road” option when it comes to VPN services. There are a few things that we liked about the product, but there are also some things that we found ourselves wishing were different.
First and foremost, the free service is limited. The service does not come with any extra features, and there are only seven servers available. However, what does stand out is the fact that your information remains secure. Too often, free VPNs will sell your information to third parties. ProtonVPN instead reduces performance capabilities but still manages to keep your data safe.
So, if you’re going to get something worthwhile out of ProtonVPN, you’re going to have to pay for a subscription. Here is where ProtonVPN starts to set itself apart. You’ll find that its paid services provide you with better connections and incredible security features. You’ll also be able to use Netflix on specific servers.
However, upon further investigation, these features were not as they seemed. For instance, although connections were faster on the paid plans, they still paled in comparison to other VPNs that we’ve tested in the past.
Additionally, Switzerland is under pressure from other governments when it comes to internet security, which could potentially expose your information.
We consider ProtonVPN to be an average product. It was good but not excellent. It appears as though the company is working quickly to add features to its product line. There are other VPNs available that cost around the same but could provide you with access to much better features. Perhaps one day, ProtonVPN will grow into a top-of-the-line option for VPN services. But, right now, it’s merely average.
We hope that our ProtonVPN review was worthwhile. If you’re looking for an alternative to the service, be sure to check out some of our other VPN reviews. We’re confident that you can find a VPN that meets your needs.